Book Review by Shelley Duke in Dimensions Magazine
By page thirty of Fitness Without Stress, by Robert Rickover, I was already uncomfortable, but I didnt really mind because I seemed to be in such excellent company.
Like F. Matthias Alexander himself (1869-1955), Aldous Huxley, John Dewey, George Bernard Shaw, Paul Newman and other Alexander Technique students quoted in this book, I had become aware of using my body poorly in everyday activity. In my case, the activity was reading. I could feel what Alexander had observed to be an almost universal failure to allow the head to balance freely on top of the spine because of excess tension in the muscles of the neck. I had noticed the interference this was causing in my comfort of posture and patterns of breathing. Furthermore, I had seen that my habit of body-misuse went all the way to my childhood experience of learning to read under pressure. Thirty years later, with no grade-school teacher left to impress, I was carrying the same tension into my reading of Rickovers book.
As a health professional who promotes body awareness in all manner of fitness and everyday activity, I was impressed with the efficiency with which Rickovers writing brought all this awareness to light. His book in this respect is the work of a very talented trickster in the best sense of the word. For its seeming simplicity and directness, Fitness Without Stress touches readers at refined levels of awareness and fully engages their curiosity. In this respect alone, the book is a teacher to lay people and professionals alike who want to know more about the subtleties involved in improving human functioning, because it is true in its own style to everything it advocates.
For readers moved by this book to take Alexander Technique lessons, Fitness Without Stress will save time, energy, frustration and money by clearly outlining such essential as how to find the right teacher, what to wear to a lesson, what results to expect and what not to expect.
Like other talented teachers who have spent years studying the subtle work of a great master, Rickover is very careful not to oversimplify the work, nor does he take any reckless license for himself in paying tribute to his teachers contributions. Even in explaining how the Alexander Technique can help cases of backaches, migraines, asthma, or other specific health conditions, he relies on the tales of experience that others are able to tell to provide his accurately subtitled Guide to the Alexander Technique.
The last two chapters of the book, Recent Developments and Looking Ahead explore the exciting possibilities and implications of Alexanders discoveries for other health care professionals, as well as in the area of childhood education.
Fitness Without Stress has the potential to be much more than A Guide to the Alexander Technique because it contains well-expressed, practical wisdom that can be enjoyably accessed by parents, teachers, fitness professionals, health care workers, designers and policy-makers who will understand and enjoy this book. It would be great if they decided to take Alexander Technique lessons, but that would not really be necessary for them to begin to act on the important pieces of awareness that his book provides about a world that could support more fitness without stress.
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